The union representing Ontario’s elementary school teachers is coming under fire for running an anti-Islamophobia workshop as part of a series of seminars on how to teach students about equality.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) began putting the anti-Islamophobia workshop together in 2011 following a request from one of its local presidents for such a seminar “as a response to the collective victimization of the Muslim community” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to an ETFO report from August.
Critics of the workshop, however, are slamming the ETFO for developing an anti-Islamophobia seminar that will not pro-actively address the fact that women and girls are treated as second-class citizens in some circles of the Islamic faith.
According to an e-mail from ETFO president Sam Hammond, the workshop will only address the issue “if the question arises,” and that “a general answer would be that there are lots of women in many cultures who are treated as second-class citizens.”
Hammond did not say how much the workshops will cost ETFO members.
The workshop, titled Addressing Islamophobia: A Discussion for Educators, is part of a series of seminars for the federation’s Equity and Women’s Programs. Other workshops include one on women and equality and another on the gay community.
The federation reached out to its membership last year with a request for writers possessing expertise in subjects relating to “equity and inclusion” to help put the workshop together, according to a page from the ETFO website.
Moderate Muslim commentator Tarek Fatah said such a workshop will “scare” teachers away from addressing with students issues around gender inequality in radical Islam.
“Islamist teachers will be able to force other teachers to not object to the second-class status of girls, as enforced by Islamists,” Fatah said. “What is happening here is before someone can bring up the issue that women are treated terribly it would be considered Islamophobic to do so.”
One ETFO member – a teacher in Waterloo, Ont. – said a portion of the dues collected from all union members will go toward funding the anti-Islamophobia workshops, whether they agree with the content or not.
“My understanding is that a certain percentage of teachers’ union fees would go towards women’s programs to encourage active participation of women in the union process and to improve women’s lives everywhere,” she said in an e-mail.
“I find it tragic that this money is now going to pay for anti-Islamophobia workshops, where the diminished status of women in Islam will not even be addressed.”
Apart from the appalling Tarek Fatah, who can always be relied upon to help the anti-Muslim right stoke up fear and hatred of his co-religionists, and the single anonymous ETFO member, the only other critic who has been “slamming” the workshop is the Toronto Sun‘s own journalist Simon Kent, who is the man responsible for stirring up this concocted “controversy”.
But it isn’t just Muslims who are being targeted here. The Toronto Sun‘s decision to go after ETFO is perhaps not unconnected with the fact that the union is currently organising action in response to the Canadian government’s attack on its members’ rights.